For dog owners who let their pooches jump into lakes and ponds, a spate of deaths around the US has led to a warning: Beware the algae. It may look harmless, but a toxic blue-green algae is being blamed for fatally poisoning dogs, reports NBC News. The issue got national attention when North Carolina's Melissa Martin posted on Facebook about how all three of her dogs died after swimming in a Wilmington pond. One began have a seizure in 15 minutes, and the others soon after, reports CNN. A vet could not save them and diagnosed the algae as blooms of cyanobacteria. Its toxins also are harmful to people, but dogs are particularly vulnerable because they ingest them, per the New York Times. Sometimes the dogs do so by licking their fur after a swim.
"It happens every single year in the US and around the world," Penn State veterinary professor Val Beasley tells the Times. "This time of year is when you have the most numbers of cases and people are out and about with their animals and the conditions are ripe for the cyanobacteria to grow." Indeed, other dog deaths in Austin, Texas, and Marietta, Ga., also made headlines. The blooms are especially bad in high temperatures and after heavy rains deliver fertilizer runoff to waterways. CNN has guidance for dog owners: "Toxic algae can look like foam, scum, or mats on the surface of water," and the blooms, "which can be blue, vibrant green, brown or red, are sometimes mistaken for paint floating on the water." One note of caution, however: The algae can be present under the water, too, clinging to plants. (Read more dogs stories.)